Last week I read an article where George Lucas and Steven Spielberg gave their predictions of where videogames will be within the next five years, give or take. Spielberg believes videogames will not be completely immersive until they are a three-dimensional experience. Microsoft is allegedly working on that. Lucas thinks videogames will soon be revolutionised by a game that relies on emotional investment instead of acts of violence. David Cage is always pushing towards that. What the cinematic giants predict isn’t farfetched or impossible, but I think their film making expertise will always skip a beat when applied to videogames.
This is because films are passive when compared to videogames, which rely heavily on interactivity. I can sit down and watch a film for two hours and watch the hero succeed in his mission without feeling like I have to get involved but I can’t sit down for two hours and watch my friend complete a game because I don’t get the same satisfaction. Films spend time convincing the audience to empathise with the protagonist and his cause so that we want to see justice prevail. Videogames don’t do this. They give us the opportunity to become the protagonist instead, and it doesn’t matter who the antagonist is because it’s whatever he/she throws at us that define our involvement.
Videogames and films do have some similarities. I have always been convinced that films and videogames are never really about the beginning or the end, but about the journey. It doesn’t matter what Point A and Point B are. It only matters how the character/s get from Point A to Point B. Also, both mediums have to take stakes and levels of difficulty into consideration, but they do it in completely different ways. During a movie the stakes are raised if they decrease the chance of the protagonist’s success, and it typically relies on how the main character feels about something. He/she has to make a life-changing decision and rise to the challenge. Videogames do it differently. The stakes are binary. You survive to the end of you die trying to get there. The stakes are raised by increasing the number of enemies or by making them harder to defeat. This would never work in a film and yet it is integral to every videogame.
Videogames are a matter of life and death. It’s why you can still die in them. Dying isn’t to deter you from playing the game. It’s designed to teach you where you went wrong and to try again. Perseverance should be the theme of every videogame story. It also makes the game more challenging. Every game is a glorified obstacle course and gamers get the buzz from completing it. It doesn’t matter what the objective is. Films are different. If the objective seems futile or unrealistic we zone out and lose faith. This is because a film isn’t about completing an obstacle course. Yes, films are full of obstacles to overcome, but they are there to show us how the characters will act; heroically or cowardly.
So do I think Spielberg and Lucas are wrong? Not necessarily. The Xbox One aims to unite all aspects of entertainment and expanding the videogame world beyond our televisions is the next logical step. Narratively, game storylines will become more complex and cut scenes will become more emotive thanks to the advances of motion capture and the involvement of professional actors.
Do I agree then? I share their philosophy, but films and videogames are separate mediums. They use the same devices but in very different ways and we should continue to embrace this fact instead of trying to fuse the two together.
– Lee Chesnalavage